The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends spending 7-8% of gross revenue on marketing. Why? When it comes to dental marketing, the pay-off can be huge. An online marketing strategy does take time and money, however. As a dentist running a practice, it can be difficult to find the time and resources to effectively run an online marketing strategy. Here are a few tips to get you started and get your phone ringing.
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Dental marketing is key to staying competitive
The dental workforce has been projected to grow 19% from 2016 to 2026 — much faster than the average growth rate for other industries – rising from 153,500 dentist jobs in 2016 to a projected 182,800 jobs by 2026.
The American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute contributes this anticipated growth to an influx of younger and more diverse dentists, something they predict will continue through 2037. Not to mention that more and more dentists are waiting even longer to retire. The result is a marketplace that is oversaturated with qualified dentists who are competing for the same clients.
The good news is that despite this increased competition, the overall demand for dental services remains strong. In 2019, 64.9% of American adults visited the dentist at least once within the past year, up from 58% in 2018.
But patients won’t automatically file into your office. If you aren’t attracting new customers to your office, then you’re losing patients to your competitors. Other practices are marketing themselves, even if you’re not.
With the market not getting any less competitive in the coming years, the key to success is to create an effective and forward-thinking dental marketing plan. Branding is critical in marketing because otherwise your business will get lost in the competitive crowd. This is why investing time and money in branding is worth it.
Building trust and loyalty online
Building a trustworthy brand for your dental practice is the single most important thing you can do to set yourself up for success in the long term. A better brand means better marketing results, which means more patients and more revenue for your company.
Your brand will give patients a reason to choose you over another dentist. But if you expect patients to put their health in your hands over someone else’s, you first have to earn their trust. Your dental marketing can help you build that much-needed trust to create a loyal customer base you can depend on for many years to come.
You don’t want to focus all of your dental marketing efforts on attracting new patients, though. New patients are critical, but beware of concentrating too much on them. Acquiring new patients is costly in comparison to retaining current patients. For most dental offices, the cost to acquire a new patient is between $250 and $300. By focusing on existing patients first, you are subsequently investing in prospective patients for a fraction of the cost.
Prospective patients often pay careful attention to the opinions and experiences of current or past patients. What an existing patient has to say about your dental practice will significantly influence whether a potential client chooses your practice. Conversion rates for new patients are usually much higher for practices that invest in improving patient satisfaction and patient loyalty.
With the internet creating a hyper-connected environment, patients pay a lot of attention to things such as online reviews, website testimonials, and ratings. If your practice builds up positive reviews and ratings from existing patients, this can help create a strong online reputation for your brand.
Strategically manage your reputation with dental marketing
Dental marketing and reputation management has greatly evolved over the past few decades, and even more so in 2020. As mentioned above, dental practices are now able to receive feedback in multiple public spaces, through the help of the internet.
According to Google Trends, there has been a 6x growth in searches for “dentist near me” over the past 5 years. When current or potential patients see your practice on Google, a certain amount of stars will appear next to it based on your overall patient reviews. Customers may also be able to see your ratings and reviews on Yelp or Facebook.
According to The Local Consumer Review Study, 91% of people read online reviews, with 84% trusting online reviews as much as their friends.
A positive star reassures current patients that they already have the best dentist around and encourages potential patients to contact your practice to learn more. However, no reviews, or a less than 3-star rating could be a red flag and may steer potential new patients away.
So, how can you take control of your dental practice’s online reputation?
Make it easy for patients to find you
Your Business Listings
If you haven’t already, claim your dental practice’s listings on third-party review sites like Google My Business, Yelp, Angie’s List, and Healthgrades. You should ensure your profiles are completed and optimized with accurate information about your hours, phone number, address, and any other details that can give potential patients a high-level overview about your practice and the services you provide.
There’s about a 70% chance that a patient’s first interaction with you will be through your website, so it needs to make a good impression. Your site needs to look professional, be well-organized for easy navigation, and be thorough in the information it offers visitors.
Your Social Media
Social media gives your practice an opportunity to reach out to potential and existing patients to build and strengthen relationships. In addition to staying in touch with patients online, you can also provide updates and information. This is also a great place to collect reviews from existing patients. A positive social media community for your practice provides new patients with more potential touchpoints, and a better immediate first impression whenever they find you.
Generate More Positive Reviews
The best way to get more positive patient reviews? Ask! Here are a few of our favorite ways to get more reviews online:
- Follow up with patients via email or text after their appointment. Digital communication is great way to ask patients if they were pleased with their appointment. If they say “yes!” ask if they’d be willing to provide a review for you online. Make sure to include a link to the exact review site that you’d like to have a review left on to make it easier for the patient.
- Train office staff. After each appointment, train your office staff to ask how their visit was. This way, if a patient was disappointed with how something went, your office can address the issue right then and there. If the patient responds positively, staff can quickly follow up with a request to leave a positive review online.
- Add signage in your office. Let patients know you want positive reviews by having signs in your office that politely asks patients to leave a review online. Sometimes you just need to get it on a patient’s radar and they will happily oblige!
Embrace Negative Reviews
If and when you receive a dreaded negative review, the first thing to remember is to always remain calm. Respond within 48 to 72 hours so other viewers can see that you’re actively monitoring online reviews.
Getting a negative review isn’t the end of the world – if potential patients see you provide a genuine and professional response, they will understand that things can happen. The most important things you can do after receiving a negative review are:
- Analyze the complaint and note the validity of your patient’s points; if your practice made a mistake, this is the time to own it – it instills accountability. Apologize to the reviewer and let them know that you want work toward a successful resolution.
- Consider the bad review as opportunity to improve. Bad reviews can help you understand what you’re doing wrong, and where you can make improvements in your practice.
- Finally, make sure to follow-up with the patient. Give them a number or email address where they can reach you and keep the lines of communication open. This lets patients know you’re dedicated to making the situation right.
Bring on a marketing partner
Reputation management can be both a mysterious concept and stressful situation for dental practices. You likely have a multitude of questions on how to get reviews, improve your online reputation, as well as the effect reviews can have on your business from both a patient-perspective in addition to SEO. The right marketing agency can help your practice increase new patient numbers and thrive with cohesive dental marketing strategies.
Ready to up your dental marketing strategy? Call us now.